Fruits Basket Volume 4
Fruits Basket #4 is one of the few UK releases I’ve approached with a real sense of enthusiasm and anticipation; up to this point, the series has just been outstanding – seamlessly merging razor-sharp humour and dramatic storylines without ever needing to resort to the kind of typical ‘fan-service’ (big breasts in your face) lesser anime would constantly fall back onto. It’s noticeable how the Fruits Basket creators show great confidence their characters, helping them to develop and shine over the course of the series.
So does this, the dramatic final volume of Fruits Basket, envelope that potential and deliver an enthralling conclusion? Come on; were you ever really in doubt?!
Before reaching the inevitable climax of the series, we are treated to a series of stand-alone (and novelty) episodes focusing on many of the characters outside of our core three heroes (Kyo, Yuki and Tohru). These are essentially the comic-relief episodes before the main drama with Akito (the ‘evil’ head of the Sohmas) really kicks in and are notable in their attempts to tie-up previous loose-ends.
We finally get under the skin of the ‘bunny-boiling’ Prince Yuki fan club, witness Yuki and his brother Ayame making peace with each other and even have time to meet a new member of the Sohma family – Ritsu, arrogant and jealous older brother to the victimized Kisa.
Indeed, I found these episodes rather jarring, constantly expecting some serious development for the final few episodes, when instead being treated to more of the same ‘zany’ fun you could associate with the earlier episodes of Fruits Basket.
I can’t help but feel that perhaps a few of these stand-alone episodes could have been left untold, and instead used to further our understanding of the crazed personality of Akito – a seemingly important figure in this ‘arc’ of the series who has only seen cameo appearances right up until the final three episodes.
When we finally do reach the Fruits Basket finale, it felt (predictably) emotionally draining yet uplifting at the same time. Its strange to see Tohru physically and emotionally shaken, losing grasp of her invincible optimism.
I’ll admit that some of the scenes from these episodes reminded me of the TV ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion, deconstructing the mental state of our teenage heroes and exposing their true, inner most fears.
Fruits Basket doesn’t end with fireworks, we aren’t given any real closure on any of the characters- but do we even need it? Such is the strength of Fruits Basket; we are simply watching a bunch of kids go through a particularly insecure and strange period of their lives, learning from each other and becoming better people for it. I get the feeling life doesn’t stop for the Fruits Basket characters when DVD stops spinning.
From start to finish, Fruits Basket has been in a different class. The characters are conflicted and realistic, the story is dramatic and warm (without seeming like pure treacle) and the entire anime production is top notch – from the subtle musical soundtrack to the nostalgic, memorable character designs.
I just can’t recommend Fruits Basket enough and I find it such a shame that this series has already finished, leaving everyone to wallow in its glorious shadow.